Teaching and learning when kids aren’t looking

Some students pinch off stems and leaves of these greens and pop them right in their mouths. Some, of course, look horrified at the suggestion and say, “No way!” And both paths are just fine, as far as we of the Vegetable Project are concerned. Taking a risk has no timetable.

We grow the greens on classroom windowsills. For some kids, the move beyond a comfort zone starts with putting a hand in a tub of potting mix and moving it around to wet the planting material. For others, it’s tasting the shoots, typically 10 to 14 days after starting seeds. Either is fine. We happily accept that different human beings, even 11-year-old or 12-year-old humans, are, well, different than one another.

We’re in the education business, whether the school world recognizes that or not. And we think that inviting students to the table sometimes needs to come before shoveling information at them and calling that teaching. We build teaching and learning around doing and touching and tasting and experiencing instead because we think that can make impressions last longer than until the test next week.

Pea shoots, which germinate reliably, which grow incredibly quickly, which require no more preparation than pinching (though many other approaches are just as good) and which are delicious, are just a great vehicle for building trusting relationships with kids, engaging them and then sneaking a bit of teaching and learning onto their plate when they think we’re just serving a bunch of doing and touching and tasting and experiencing.

–Bill Stoneman

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